The terms Feather lift, Thread lift, and Russian Lift are used to describe a facelift technique for lifting the facial skin using small “threads” which are placed beneath the facial skin, attached to the underside of the skin, and then pulled upward to tighten the facial skin.
The threads are placed beneath the skin using a needle attached to the “thread’. The needle is passed through the skin at a point low in the cheek, passed under the cheek skin up to a point higher on the face and then passed back out through the skin. The “thread” has small barbs sticking out which attach to the undersurface of the skin and pull up on the skin as the “thread” is tightened from above creating a face lift.
Although the Feather lift, Thread lift, and Russian lift are being marketed as a non-surgical face-lift, a no down time face-lift, a lunch time face-lift, and other such terms, you must understand that these are surgical procedures. In fact they are a surgical implant procedure, and complications can and do occur.
Before undertaking a Feather lift, Thread lift, or Russian lift you need to be aware of several potential problems:
1. bruising and down time
3. extrusion – that is the thread pushes out onto the surface of the skin
4. Injury to the facial nerve – this can paralyze your face
5. “divits” or visible dents or depressions in your face
7. failure to lift the face
8. Excess skin bulge above the exit point of the needle and thread
Bruising and Down Time
Injecting a local anesthetic (required for these procedures) and passing a needle and thread beneath the skin for a facelift damages blood vessels and causes bleeding. Bleeding under the skin causes bruising. You will have bruising following this procedure. Some of you I know can go to work with bruises and swelling on your face, but most people don’t want to. If you have one of these procedures be prepared for swelling and bruises that can last up to 10 days, sometimes 2 weeks.
Anytime you enter the skin with a needle or other foreign object bacteria can be pushed into the skin and cause infection. Good surgical technique-scrubbing with an antiseptic solution and using sterile techniques- and antibiotics help, but infections happen in spite of these precautions.
Placing an implant, such as a thread, under the skin introduces a “foreign body” under the skin and greatly increases the chances of an infection.
Our bodies recognize and try to reject or push out foreign material. A splinter is a good example, notice how the splinter becomes infected and the pus eventually pushes the splinter out. When the body rejects or pushes an implanted material out it is called an extrusion
Although medical devices such as breast implants and the facelift “threads” can be implanted safely, the implanted material musty be inert-hard for the body to recognize-and must be perfectly sterile and placed with meticulous sterile surgical technique. In addition, the body tissue around the implant must be healthy, and generally the deeper the implant is placed in the body the better the chance that it will not be rejected.
Since the threads used in facelifting techniques like the feather lift, thread lift, and Russian lift are placed close to the surface of the skin the chances of infection, rejection, and extrusion are greater than implants placed deeper in the body.
Injury to the Facial Nerve
This is the most dreaded and debilitating of all complications of any facial surgery, including a face lift. Damage to a facial nerve branch is often permanent and causes paralysis or sagging of the face, inability to smile or raise your forehead, and can cause difficulty closing your eyelids.
Board certified plastic surgeons spend many years learning how not to injure these nerves during face lift surgery and understand and recognize the locations of these nerves so that they are avoided and not injured.
The feather lift, thread lift, and Russian lift are Blind Procedures, meaning that the needle and thread are passed beneath the skin without the surgeon being able to see the structures, under the skin, that the needle is passing through. If the needle is passed a little too deep or through an area where the facial nerve is close to the skin, the nerve can be injured and facial paralysis can result.
Divits or visible dents or depressions on your face
One problem that surgeons have had with the feather lift, thread lift, and Russian lift face lift techniques is that on occasion, the barbed thread catches hold of the underside of the skin tightly in one location on the face. When this happens, the upward pull on the cheek is entirely placed at that one spot. The cheek is “hooked” from underneath at that one spot and creates a dimple or depression on the skin of the cheek creating an unsightly deformity.
When you break or enter the skin whether with a scalpel or a needle the skin always forms a scar. Of course a needle puncture creates a smaller scar than a scalpel. However if the needle, a large one in the case of the Feather lift, thread lift, and Russian lift, passes through the skin it will always leave a mark.
If the needle needs to be passed through the skin several times to get the right position, and at the exit point where the thread is tightened and tied, a scar is likely to be larger.
If the thread becomes infected or a divit or depression forms, the thread will need to be removed surgically, and a larger scar will result.
Failure to lift the face
Threads can fail and the face can drop.
Excess skin bulge above the exit point of the thread
Take your hands, place them on your cheeks and push your facial skin up to tighten the face to make it look younger. Do you notice the excess skin bulging above your hands high up on your face and around your ear?
This is what you will see if you have a face lift and the surgeon does not remove or cut away the excess facial skin.
This is the biggest limitation and drawback to the feather lift, thread lift, and Russian lift facelift techniques. Although with proper surgical technique the threads can be used to pull the cheek up, if you don’t do surgery to remove the excess skin you will be left with an unsightly bulge of excess skin. Most websites recommending this procedure say it is only for younger patients who don’t have much excess skin for this reason.
The feather lift, thread lift and Russian lift facelift techniques may well in the future be useful techniques for younger patients with minimal skin sagging when performed by board certified plastic surgeons in an appropriate safe surgical facility. At present this technique is not recommended by the major plastic surgery societies. I would recommend waiting until this procedure has been studied further.
I certainly feel that much of the web advertising I have read is misleading especially when ads refer to this facelift procedure as “lunch time”, “no down time”, “no bruising” and “non surgical”.
As always “caveat emptor” let the buyer beware. Always seek the opinion of a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic surgery. (215-587-9322, www.abplsurg.org)